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Vic Vogel: The Musical Legend

Montreal's Vic Vogel has been a mainstay on the music scene of that city for over 50 years. He's played at nearly every edition of the Montreal Jazz festival since its inception, and composed the music for Expo 67 as well as the opening march for the Montreal Olympics. His big band has been a training ground for just about every notable musician currently working in Montreal today. This documentary joins Vic over a breakfast of rum and eggs at one of his favorite Montreal haunts as he recounts the stories that made him the man he is today.

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Transcript of the audio documentary

I am Ross Porter, and welcome to the Documentary: Vic Vogel, The Musical Legend.

At 71 years old, Vic Vogel has truly become one of Montreal's great jazz legends. The big band he formed in 1968 is now an institution. The scores he created for Expo '67 and the Montreal Olympics have gained in the ears of the world. He shared the stage with Dizzy Gillespie, Slide Hampton, Zoot Sims, Cannonball Aderly, Mel Tormain and Maynard Ferguson. He has played in over 80 albums. He's been a mainstay in most ever addition of the Montreal Jazz Festival since its inception. He's gruff, he's charming, and he loves to tell stories.

I met up with Vic recently at a cafe on Montreal's Saint Denis Street where over breakfast of rum and eggs, Vic held court.

"Well let's just say that I like to do things my way and not never been to school so nobody ever told me that I couldn't do something. My parents were Austro-Hungarian. We spoke German and Hungarian at home. Dad was a good hunky fiddle player who made a lot of wine and had a still on Boulion Street, and my mom was only allowed to clean houses in the rich people's homes in Outramont as long as they had children the same age as my brother and me. That way, we got all their snappy clothes, their rubber bricks, their mechano sets, and all their Bobsie Twin books and their Tom Swift and his Electic Girl; so we had everything.

When I was four, my brother was five, my dad bought a piano for ten bucks. He took my brother and me into the living room and gave me a whack in the face and said "don't touch the piano, it's for your brother"; because the oldest guy always got the new pants. So the first thing I did was I took a wax crayon and drew a keyboard on the side of the door. When the piano teacher came in at 25 cents a lesson, I used to play the damn lesson the door. A year later, he yelled and said we were selling the piano. I said, I didn't get my chance and I wanted to...He said "okay, you got the piano, but no lessons!" Man, I was in heaven. I could do anything I wanted.

I was born in the Catholic religion and in the first grade I used to come home at noon to eat with a red cheek. Then my father would be curious and say, "how come you got a red cheek every day?" I said "I don't know I go to school and the brother comes in; everybody stands up and makes the sign of the cross and he's laughin' in my face; I figure it's the normal thing. My father says "I'm going to take a look tomorrow." Next morning, he came and looked through the square window in the classroom and sure enough the brother was next to me right away and we made the sign of the cross and he gave me a good wallop across the cheek. So my father came into the room said "how do you do, my name is Mathius Vogel and little Victor is my son. Little Victor is left handed and I am left-handed and maybe God is left-handed and I am going to show you what the a left-handed person is" because in the old days the left hand was the hand of the devil, and he gave the brother a club that knocked him for a loop and he never bothered me after that." [4 min: 55 sec]

It was war time; everything was rationed. You had all the Eastern European immigration was in our area. You had Newcom and Martha Scowinger across the street were my friends. You had people saying "Vogel speaks German, be careful". There was a lot of funny stuff going on and we were all living together.

Down the street on Pine Avenue there's a theatre called Le Theatre de Cartre Sous. It used to be a school Synagogue . On Saturday morning, us Catholic kids would put on a yamica and go to the school, because after the damn service we'd all eat chicken. And on Sundays, the Jewish kids used to come to the Catholic Hungarian Church: Our Lady of Hungary and make the sign of the cross and do everything else and after that we ate pobogaosh chicken. We ate chicken all the time! What keeps people together is food, and by food, it is ethnic food and everybody gets along.

We did not know we were poor. When you don't know, you don't hurt. My mom used to give me 25 cents and I would go with my brother to La Fountaine Park and rent a row boat and bring me home a duck. They ate popcorn all the time, these ducks man. They were delicious! If I could grab a duck, put him in your pants and go home."

Around this time, the largely self-taught pianist and trombone player was also in the process of learning how to read and write music. His teachers were old 78 records and he would sit and study. His left hand firmly grasping a pencil, and the other hovering over the record, ready, at any point to stop it with his thumb in order to give himself time to transcribe it. Vic Vogel was learning the theory and structures that make up good music. And it was through these early learnings, that a great big band arranger was born.

"Learning how to write is always a painful thing because you are all alone; nobody can help you. And in those times, there wasn't too many people around. Don't forget, when I was a kid, the CBC and including probably Toronto; these were all guys from the Second World War that got the gigs and they arranged like Boosey and Hawks in England, 1, 3, 5..."ba ba ba ba ba ba", you know?. And we used to give them all hell and say "man, why don't you write the way the guys write for Ellington? You guys write like you are still in a damn oom pa pa band. Why don't you write like the New York guys?" And then one of the guys said, "then why don't you go to New York?" I said "I don't have the money". And they said "how much would it take?" and I said "50 bucks" and I woke up in Penn Station with 50 bucks in my pocket. They got me piss drunk, they drove me to the border, put me on some train, paid off some porter to go across the border. In those days it was easy. And I ended up in New York, and they figured I would stay one or two days and then they could cat-call me. I stayed six and a half months."

And it was in New York that Vic got a chance to come up close and personal with the type of big jazz he heard over his radio. They type of jazz that he loved. And throughout his formative years, he would find himself returning to New York time and time again. On one of those trips, he met one of his idols, pianist Lenny Tristano. One of the innovators of the freestyle of playing jazz. Tristano's students included the great Phil Woods, Bill Evans, Lee Connis and Charles Minges. [9 min: 50 sec]

"I looked through the phone book and I saw Lenny Tristano. He was listed in the phone book in a place called Holice, Long Island on Palo Alto Avenue. So I phone him up, said "mister how do you do? I am Vic Vogel from Montreal, I play just like you and I want to see you right away. He said well take the E train, the F train, then the bus, the this, the that; it took four hours to get there. He answered the door and I realized for the first time that the man is blind. You can't tell on the record cover. I said, shit, the guy can't see. So he brings me into the house and he had two pianos an mg tape said; got the tape set up. I played Gosta Vagance just like him. He said "that's pretty good, just a minute". Then he opened the drawer and took a handful out of his hands and there was two heroin. I didn't know. He said blow this up your nostril and go to the bathroom, you are going to get sick. And I got off of there. Everything was "wooo" and all wavy and he said "now play the damn tune again", and I did. A couple of hours later, I must have woke up or fell asleep or something. He said listen to this; he taped both of them. He said, "Which one's better?" I said "that one's better!" He said "that's the one you did when you weren't high. Our greatest musicians are dying of this shit. He said, don't ever touch this shit." And I never have."

Vic's gutsy determination to experience all aspects of life was turning him into a great jazz player. But his destiny as a great big band leader was still unfulfilled. That is, until one faithful day when the leader of a group he was playing in; a rather small man, was injured during a fight with his girlfriend, who was a rather athletic burlesque dancer. Vic was at the right place at the right time when the club owner realizing that he now had no one to lead the big band, looked at Vic and pointed and yelled "you're the band leader now." So Vic became one. And in taking on his new role, he never forgot a piece of advice that he had gotten years earlier when he was playing a gig that was headlined by one of the giants of the big band world.

"I was in the pit at the theatre in Montreal; the Seville. And Tommy Dorsey's band was playing up on the big stage. Dorsey used to line up his guys up and check their shoe shines and all that shit. And he grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and said "kid, if you want to be a band leader, you got to be a prick". I said "yes sir", and I have had my moments, and I still do."

One of the most recent additions to the Vic Vogel Big Band is Alex Cote, a saxophone player whom before joining the band had heard many stories of Vic's reputation as a difficult band leader.

"The first time I saw Vic, he was conducting the band with malt scotch on the left hand a beer in the right hand. And that was my introduction to Vic Vogel."

Baritone saxophonist, Jean Frachette has been playing in the Vic Vogel Band for close to 25 years

"Vic is never easy when you start there so it's part of his game. I know some musicians really don't like him, you know, some people really don't like him. To me, it's their choice. Probably why, it's probably because he told them what he was thinking and they don't want to accept that, you know? Many times I called people to get a sub and I faced that many times. Young guys like they want to sub , you want to go up. Oh no, I don't want to go there, I am too afraid. Because Vic is kind of character, you never know what's going to come out of his mouth."

"Can you play a solo you? You don't look right" (laughter) [14 min: 35 sec]

One of the longest current standing members of the Vic Vogel Jazz Band is lead alto player Dave Turner.

"I was a little bit freaked out at first because I thought that I was going to be given a hard time. Of course it took awhile to get to know Vic because he came across as such a hard-ass himself that you would be afraid to make a mistake or get chewed out during rehearsal. I wasn't a great reader. I figured this is going to be a disaster; he's going to chew me out. But for whatever reason you know, he overooked it, some of my transgressions you know. And I was very very grateful. I guess it was after six months to a year in his band, he wrote a tune called Ballad for Duke and I came to rehearsal one night and he said "hey Turner, come over here!" And he sat at the piano and played this tune and said "that tune is called Ballad for Duke and it is from me to you, and nobody else is every going to play it". And it was like, I was taken aback and I was like wow. So from that time on, you know we became sort of buddies"

Here is Dave Turner with Vic Vogel on the piano with Ballad for Duke. [16 min: 07 sec]

Ballad for Duke [19 min: 17 sec]

I am Ross Porter and you are listening to Vic Vogel: The Musical Legend an original documentary on Canada's premiere jazz station, Jazz FM 91.

Of all the big band leaders, it was probably Duke Ellington that had the greatest impact on Vic in his group. It can be felt in the way Vic structures his band, to the way he writes his music, to the way he performs with the band on stage. Vic was priveledged enough to call Duke Ellington both a mentor and a friend.

"I'll never forget I was doing a radio program, and we had five minutes for news and as a Friday and we get paid on Friday. And in those days we didn't have credit cards, and we had heard on the news that Duke Ellington had died. I went home with a cheque, maybe $1,100.00 cheque and I waltzed and pranced around the house and my wife says "you want to go away" , I said "yeah, I have to come back Monday for the regular show anyway, but it's Friday afternoon, I want to go". I don't have any cash; in those days, the bank closed at 3 o'clock. So she borrowed 50 bucks from my ex mother-in-law, drove me to the airport, and I bought a one way ticket to New York. And I was in front of the American customs guy; he says "where you goin'?", I said "New York", he said "one way?", I said "I'll be back on Monday". He said "where's the other part of the ticket?", I says "I ain't got it yet. I'm going to Duke Ellington's funeral! and I better damn well go!" And he looked at me and says "Okay, go ahead". And I phone Jimmy Knottingham, a trumpet player, a friend of mine. "Jimmy, pick me up at the airport and bring me some money". I got no money. He picked me up in his caddy and he said "where you goin'?"I said "Jim and Andy's on 48 Street". He dropped me off right on the front of the door. As I got out of the car, he gave me an envelope; there was a thousand US in it. I says "I'll pay you back when I get home".

I looked in the window of Jim and Andy's and Jimmy Colavaro had his door locked because people were comin' from all around the world you know? And they are all landing in Jim and Andy's joint. And he spotted me and he knows me. He opened the door. He says "you need any money?". I thought...he gave me another 5 hundred. I had 15 hundred to piss away between there and Monday morning. And there was a guy name Pokehawk, Father Pokehawk."

What happened to the 15 hundred bucks?

"I pissed it away!"

On what?

"Booze! With all my friends! You kidding? It was marvellous"

Despite the partying, Vic did there in New York City, his time there was bittersweet. Because after all, he was there to bid farewell to a personal mentor and a giant to the world of jazz. At the funeral home, there was an open casket.

"Oh all the way with his rubber band and his pig-tail and his all his medals and his things wall to wall. And three rooms full of flowers in the front. And we all grabbed him and gave him a hug. You know? Then we went and got pissed. It was a marvellous day. I don' t remember if I paid Colavares back."

Like Ellington, Vic has always tailored his arrangements to the strengths and personalities of the musicians in the band; writing for the great players that he has, and trusting their strengths will carry the tune.

What's writing like for you?

"Sometimes it's like wanting to go to the bathroom, but can't. It just doesn't come out when you want it to, and you don't put it on like a damn water-tap. You don't get up in the morning and in front of an empty sheet and say "today, I'm going to compose; today I'm going to write". Okay, we like deadlines, because we're lazy. Mother Nature, in all humility made talented people naturally lazy to give a chance to the non-talented people to catch up, and admitted that the talented people felt threatened; they jumped to a higher branch and have another crap. It's as simple as that. You only do anything when you have to. Somebody will say, "oh no, I want you to write me something", and they pay me. I say "when do you need it for?" they say "next October". I say "okay, well come the last week of September". "Oh by the way, how you doin' Vogel?" "Oh, it's all ready; it's fine". Then I say "holy shit, it's next week, I better do this thing". And then you do it and you go like thunder and balls of fire."

What's the longest you've stayed up for?

"Oh four days. Four days to write the lead lines of the three and a half hour march for the Olympic games for the athletes yeah to glue it together."

And you stayed up without any help?

"Oh I drank the bouchet Cognac, I drank..uh, I smoked 12 cigars a day. I ate good quality sardines, and I drank a lot of Cognac; at least a bottle a day, maybe even more."

Vic's composition for the Montreal Olympic Games was a triumphant jazz symphony that was seen and heard around the world. When it was released as an LP, it reached double platinum status. From that release, here is the Vic Vogel arrangement of O'Canada. [26 min: 04 sec]

O'Canada [27 min: 32 sec]

I am Ross Porter and you are listening to Vic Vogel: The Musical Legend an original documentary on Jazz FM 91.

An addition to the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1976 Olympics, Vic has written scores for several other high profile ceremonial events, including the theme from Expo '67. But even as his profile began to rise on the international stage, in his own country outside the borders of Quebec, Vic remained virtually unknown.

Saxiphonist, Dave Turner:

"Well I think at one point, back in the 70's when I was first playing, it really seemed to be like two solitudes; Toronto is one thing, Montreal was another. You know there was the early 70's, the only Canadian jazz we heard on CBC was from Toronto and they never, never, never played stuff from Montreal. The good players here never got national exposure. They'd be recorded by Radio Canada and played in Quebec or maybe the French network over Canada. But I mean, how many people in Toronto listen to that or Saskatoon you know? There's not a whole lot of francophones there."

Vic Vogel's manager, Bob Pulver:

"I think he's pissed that he's not in Canada. In a way, and why not here? I've been all over, I've been talking about, because Vic is a Montrealer then a Canadian. So why am I not some time in Toronto? Why am I not in Winnipeg? He did the Expo '67. Then he did the Olympics of '76; that was a three hour march, plus an opening and closing ceremony, and you have to understand that in '76, that is when Party Quebecois came into power in Montreal and Quebec. That was not a great time to be called Vogel. You understand? Not easy; he had to overcome a lot of bullshit."

Vic Vogel:

"In the late 70's I'd be interviewed by some person, some French paper you see. "First of all, do you play Quebec jazz?" I say "what the hell is that?" Well Quebec jazz, well because they are always looking for their identities and that kind of thing. And then they would say "how many of your jazz musicians are French Canadian?" I say "I got four Jewish guys, two Italians, a Polak, four Russians, a Danish guy, an English guy, a Scotsman, and the rest are French Canadian. Whatever, next question. What do you want to know? What are you getting at here?" and that's their problem. Because if you have a culture, you don't have to ram it down anyone's throat. You want me to learn your language? I'll learn it, but respect mine."

By the late 70's, Vic was facing difficulties in Quebec that was making it harder and harder for him to play the way he'd like to. He was searching for a new audience when an opportunity appeared that would change the way Quebecers saw him for years to come.

Bob Pulver:

"In '79, John McGill from Offenback saw Vic rehearsing at the Hull Casino and he was part of Offenback, a great rock group here in the province, and the singer wanted to play with Vic's band. They did a tremendous show, and they did a tour in the 80's, and it actually was the first rock record to receive platinum here in Quebec and it made him closer to another crowd."

Alex Cote:

"It's really part of Quebec history. All these Quebec libe and Lenny Levec and separation and whatever whatsoever, but Offenback was like the icon of that. Everybody knew Offenback because they were singing songs like ________ which is like, my country is going down and blah blah. And Vic made jazz with this, and everybody heard about Vic because he has a political issue as well. I don't think that Vic did it for the political issues, it's just that he's always about the music."

Dave Turner:

"It was a very strange marriage at first; you know, Vic with Offenback because Vic didn't have much respect for rock n' roll. I remember one of the first rehearsals, they complained that the band was too loud (laughs). So you know, Vic's band has the reputation of being loud you know? But it worked out okay and people freaked over it. So much so that 2004 was the 25th anniversary, so they put together, there was a reunion of Offenback and the Vic Vogel Big Band and the first note, the whole audience was on its feet and screaming, and jumping, and yelling, and shouting. And it just gave me shivers and goosebumps, and you know, because that was a certain generation of Quebecois that they just related so much to that music" [32 min: 55 sec]

The original collaboration of Vic Vogel's Big Band and Offenback; here is, Every Day, I get the Blues.

Every Day I get the Blues [35 min: 42 sec]

Playing with the Vic Vogel Big Band has become a rite of passage for players in the Montreal jazz community. Once you survive that experience, you are ready for just about anything.

"Some of the guys aren't great readers. But once they got it, they played the hell out of it. I think that's what it's all about. We're not baseball players or hockey players. We don't have to score a goal every time we play; we just have to play. What big band music does to me is a comrodorie. I'm not teaching music, I think I'm teaching life. I teach them how to eat, how to appreciate good food and good booze, and appreciate good looking women, and know when to say "no". Know when to say "stop".

Alex Cote:

"There are things you will learn in Vic's Big Band, because big band itself is an institution. There's something you will learn there that you won't learn anywhere else in the music business. At school you will learn the technique, the language; all the stuff you need to know in the music business. But there is stuff you will miss which you would get if you are part of a big band, Vic's Big Band. If you play with a legend like him, you really feel like you are part of something that, it's a big machine, so it's nice to be part of that."

And Vic's life lessons extended from how to be a great jazz player on the bandstand to how to live the great jazz lifestyle on the tour bus.

"Being on the road with Vic, on the coach, the big buses, where you feel like there is a bar on wheels. Like everybody stands up in the bus and smoking cigars, drinking rum and people vomit in the toilet. Being on the road, there's always surprises somewhere. If you think there is a limit, you're wrong. It's like limitless."

Jean Frachette:

"(Laughter), you want to know the inside stories? Well we like partying, that's for sure I think my many musicians throughout the world. But the bus is cool, it gets like bunch of friends or family at the back and they just talk and tell stories. And it's really cool; no bad vibes."

Dave Turner:

"Well, basically Vic sits at the back and the older guys sit at the back and dispense wisdom, shouting wisdom to the back of the bus to the new guys sitting down front. And once in a while, Vic you know with his patent "*groans*"; clearing his throat and making a comment on chick on the street or some guy or whatever. I don't know how detailed I should be (laughs).

I can tell you one story about the south of France. We were staying at this dormitory for local college or university, but it was in July and it was empty and stuff. And one night after everybody sort of convened in Vic's room, and knocking back the red wine, the rose and the beer and brandy and slices of pate and bread. All of a sudden, there was this huge bug crawling down the wall, and somebody said "oohhh look at that bug, it's disgusting". And Vic said "bring it to me!"And somebody went over and got it and he had a slice of bread and said "put it on the bread!" And he took his knife by the blade and smacked it with the handle, and he folded up the bread and he ate it. And everybody was freaking out, and Vic said "it's good, it tastes good! It tastes like walnuts. It's full of protein!" (Laughter). [40 min: 32 sec]

Alex Cote:

"Everybody in the band drinks; we all enjoy having a beer, two beers, three beers. Vic's he's done that all his life, so he's like wall of rock; he can take like six, seven, eight and it won't make a difference. He can get worse and worse, but that's another story".

Dave Turner:

"There was a period that I would say maybe in the late 80's where there were times where he could get really obnoxious you know? Especially when he was just drinking vodka, but you know, once he's had a little bit of hard liquor it's okay. When he sticks to the beer and wine and there was a little bit of hard liquor, but there was a time where all he drank was vodka; vodka, vodka. It was like definite personality change. It would scare, I mean in some of the rehearsals where I couldn't make a rehearsal or one of the regulars couldn't make a rehearsal, he'd send a sub. But, if you talk to the guy a couple days later "Oh man, I'm never going back there again" because he'd get chewed out and he would get like really insulted."

People do go back; not only the players, but the audiences too. Vic's immense reputation in Quebec has gained him a spot in every edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival. For Montrealers, seeing Vic perform every summer at the festival has become a civic tradition. [42 min: 20 sec]

"My name is Lawrence Soniet. Official title, VP Programming for the Montreal Jazz Festival"

Lawrence Soniet explains why to Montrealers, Vic is not only a hometown legend, but in a lot of ways, embodies the very spirit of the city he represents.

"Vic has a very good representation of Montreal. Yes I think so. That he likes to drink sometimes, yes. That he is not doing it for the business side, but for the pleasure of making music; yeah, for sure. The fact that he's more Anglophone, but he speaks really good French; yes also. The fact that he's writing that thing for the past 30 or 40 years or something like that and I think without making money out it, this is really Montreal. Yes, yes. (Laughter)."

In every year, Montrealers pack the venues to hear Vic Vogel play.

"Vic is not a great player. It's not about his way of playing; it's not about his virtuosity. It's about leading a big band here in Montreal about 30 years or so or something like that. And when you are looking at the number of players that played with him over the years, almost each and every great trumpet or sax etc. coming from Montreal has played with Vic one moment or another in their career so this is also impressive when you check the list all the musicians that played with him (whistles); almost everybody played with him."

From the 1982 edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival, here's the Vic Vogel Big Band and Take the A Train:

[44 min: 25 sec]

Take the A Train [49 min: 17 sec]

You are listening to Vic Vogel: The Musical Legend. An original documentary on Canada's premiere jazz station, Jazz FM 91.

His annual performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival may have firmed up his reputation as a legend in Montreal, but his prominence was already in place before he ever took the stage at the festival.

Bob Pulver:

"The jazz festival here in Montreal helped him be known in a way, but that started in the 80s. In the 60's he was very well known; that's why they wanted him in the 80's. You know, he was the guy to know. So all these guys, these cats that are 60 and over still have the back pass from the Shirley Maclaine show right here; I still have that one. They play for Tom Jones, he arranged it. Imagine all these icons like Mel Tourmain, Bennet saw Vic like "yeah man when I was in town you bitch", that's how it is. I met Ray Charles behind the scenes with Vic. Ray Charles come in with his bodyguard which huge, huge armour and I hear. I'm just next to Vic and Vic to Mr.Charles, "Ray!"So I hear Mr. Charles say "Is that you Vic?" "Yes", "Oh you dress nice!" So they went together in this small room where there was a piano. I was not even allowed in there or the bodyguard. The bodyguard was by the door and the two of them in the thing. And then I just hear the piano pop and I said "oh what bottle did they put in there?" (laughter)

Vic Vogel is, a man who undeniably, likes to live large and his joie d'vivre philosophy of living may be a perfect fit for his jazz lifestyle. But for Vogel, it's in his domestic relationships where his attitudes may occasionally become problematic.

"The women in my life were attracted to me by who I am or who I was, and once they got me, they tried to change me to what they think I should be and it doesn't work. They get frustrated, and that's when the shit hits the fan and you get freckles. Because there is no way I'm going to change my way of thinkin'. You know what you're gonna get when you got it."

So what have they tried to change about you?

"Everything! From the way my mannerisms are, everything that makes me me. They want me to make me change to the way they think I should be, so they can bumble around with me with their friends and all this crap. You know what? I'm doing this interview here in this classy place because you're not going to come to my place. My place is a glorified hell holey mess. And the reason it's a mess is because I'm too ashamed to invite a woman to my place, but that's my wall of Jericho here. I go out, and I can leave. At my age, I don't need any more relationships that are the do the house bit and you got to buy a dog and slow down and you can get an electric lawnmower now. You gotta be kidding. " [53 min: 03 sec]

At 71 years old, Vic still has the energy and mentality of a man many generations younger. He has a reputation for being the first one up in the morning, and the last one to bed without exception.

Dave Turner:

"Nobody can fathom how he does what he does and like on such a constant basis. You know he's just lived the same way ever since I've known him, and it's just like, what's he made of you know? A lot of it seems to be a generational thing. I remember my father's generation, they were all like that. The business men; they would go out for their power lunches and stuff, drink three or four martinis and go back to work, and then they'd go out after work and drink and then they'd go home and eat. My father would come home and eat and then take my mother out for a nightcap you know, and then get up for work the next morning after all that drinking, and just like smoking and going and going, and it seems like maybe today's generation; the younger generation are just smarter. But I think they're not as strong because Vic was born in the 30's and you know there was no vaccine for polio so like only the real strong ones survived."

Vic Vogel:

"My dad gave my brother and me half a glass of water every morning and every night before I went to bed. Maybe I was an alcoholic by the time I was 7, but we never got sick. We'd go to Shubert's bath every Saturday morning with about 200 other kids and jump in the pool, and have a crap in it and urinate in it and yell our heads off and have a great and marvellous time; nobody got sick because we had anti-resistance. Today everything is anti-septic, the water is in the thing and my God, no wonder everyone is sick."

Jean Frachette:

"If you go to his place you know you going to find something that he's cooked on the stove and you don't know it's been there for how long and he's gonna go like "you want some beans?", and sure. It's always good and I never been sick and you know it's just another, it's not like today people are really like clean and everything has to be; you're afraid it's going to be bacteria or whatever. I don't think his culture. I eat things there that I never got anywhere else."

For the players who have been fortunate enough to play with Vic over the years, his infectious enthusiasm for the music and for life has left a lasting impact on them all.

Dave Turner:

"When I look at how many people came through his band that are all off doing other things now, or are still in the band, you can see what Vic has done to all these players; it's like dozens of them. It's going to be a really sad day when he's gone because there are other bands in town, rehearsal bands, but there's nothing with that kind of soul and that kind of flare and that kind of attention to like the roots of the music without being regressive or non-progressive. It doesn't mean anything if it's not coming from inside, it's not like honestly your personality saying it. And in Vic's case, it's honestly his personality, there's no two ways about him; there's not one ounce of BS in his writing or his playing for that matter."

Alex Cote:

"Every jazz musician knows Vic Vogel, but I think everybody in Quebec knows Vic Vogel and I think his legacy will last for a long time. Like I said, we all feel honoured to be part of his big band. And he's in his 70's; we all wish he could be alive for another 40 years, but I don't think that will happen. But it wouldn't surprise me because he's like a rock; he's like a wall of rocks. I really believe he had a strong impact and he changed the face of the jazz scene and the music industry in Quebec, seriously."

Vic's legacy will carry on, through the dozens of musicians who have performed and trained under his sometimes cutting and always musically gifted eye. The millions who have heard his music played at major international ceremonies to the hundreds of thousands who have been fortunate to see him live in one of his musical incarnations; either at a jazz festival in a rock arena. And to the people in his life, be it a bar-maid or an ex-wife, all have succumb to his killer charm; Vic has made a lasting impression on them all. He possesses many gifts as a man who enjoys all aspects of life, but for Vic, even after playing for all these years, his passion is and always will be, the music.

One last question...


What do you like about doing this? What do you like about playing music?

"My God, it takes ten years off my wife every morning. I look forward to what it has, the spontaneity of it, to meet the people, to everything that to me that is kind of food which I'm constantly hungry to swallow and spit out what I don't eat. I have a very good memory and it doesn't dull with age. I eat well; I'm a good cook. I may 1,800 litres of red wine a year. I still have my dad's still; I make medicinal products. And I love life and I love my music, and I just became a grandfather for the first time. The kid has my tone and my tingle. So the Vogels are going to continue. You see? There's hope yet."

I'm Ross Porter and you've been listening to Vic Vogel: The Musical Legend, an original documentary here on Canada's premiere jazz station, Jazz FM 91. The documentary was produced by Jeff Siskand, Executive Producer: Ross Porter. We recognize the financial support provided by the Department of Canadian Heritage via The Canadian Culture Online Program. A very special thanks to Vic Vogel and Bob Pulver.

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